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Re: Reed Elsevier as "Green" publisher

   [Apologies for posting to both lists, but I believe this issue is
   of sufficient joint importance and timeliness to warrant call for
   consideration by both the librarians' list and the scientists'
   list. S.H.]

On Mon, 31 May 2004, Joseph J. Esposito wrote:

> 1.  Does anyone know of any library cancellations of journals because of
> the availability of some or all of the articles in such journals in self-
> or institutional archives?  I do not know of any such cancellations
> myself, but I wonder if I am once again embarrassingly underinformed.

I know of precisely the opposite, and it is very important to understand
that a flurry of journal cancellations by libraries would be precisely the
*wrong* way either to greet and encourage journals going green or to
encourage authors to act upon it by self-archiving. This is yet another
example of the very urgent need to unbundle the journal affordability
problem from the access/impact problem.

    Harnad, S., Brody, T., Vallieres, F., Carr, L., Hitchcock,
    Gingras, Y., Oppenheim, C., Stamerjohanns, H., & Hilf, E.R. (2004)
    The green and the gold roads to Open Access. Nature (web focus)

The case illustrating the opposite is physics, in which there has been
substantial self-archiving since 1991, with some fields already at 100% OA
(Open Access) for years now. There have been no journal cancellations as a
result; rather, the result was that the American Physical Society (APS),
the publisher of the most important journals in the field, was the first
publisher to go green, many years ago. It would have been a great shame,
extremely short-sighted, and an even greater retardant on OA, if the
reward for their pains had been cancellation!

   "Evolving APS Copyright Policy (American Physical Society)" Blume (1999)

An even stronger counterexample comes from the very area of physics where
self-archiving first flourished, and where it reached 100% first: High
Energy Physics (HEP):

    (We don't have the data for HEP alone, but they are a subset of nuclear
    and particle physics, which is now at approximately 50% OA overall:
    please compare the green bars in nuclear/particle physics alone
    with those for all fields of physics:
    http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Temp/self-archiving_files/Slide0031.gif )

The Journal of High Energy Physics (JHEP) was "born gold" in 1997, that
is, it was created as an OA journal in this field that had already been
self-archiving since 1991 and was already at or near 100% OA by 1997.
Within one year, JHEP achieved an ISI impact factor of 6.6
http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Hypermail/Amsci/1814.html and it just
kept rising:

Nevertheless, by 2002, JHEP had difficulty making ends meet as an OA
journal, so it converted from gold to green, the title being taken over by
the Institute of Physics (IOP) and offered on the usual
subscription/license toll-access model.

    "JHEP will convert from toll-free-access to toll-based access" Harnad (2002)

The first thing to note is that in that case institutional libraries did
exactly the *right* thing, which was to subscribe to JHEP in virtue of the
fact that it was an important, high-quality, high-impact journal.

The second thing to note is that all the *articles* in JHEP are and remain
OA to this day, because their authors continue to make them OA by
self-archiving them. This is what the authors of all the 2.5 million
annual articles in the 24,000 peer-reviewed should all be doing, as of

In keeping with the importance of separating the article access/impact
problem from the journal pricing/affordability problem, I will not
speculate here about the role of pricing in the decision of so many
institutions to subscribe to JHEP after it converted from gold to green.
Reasonable prices are always desirable and advantageous. But the
substantive point is that -- rather than speculating about and perhaps
even encouraging library *cancellations* as the reward for publishers
taking the positive step of going green so authors are encouraged to
provide OA -- we should consider JHEP as evidence of the possibility of
peaceful co-existence between OA via self-archiving and the continuing
support of the journals that have given it their green light.

> 2.  Assuming cancellations because of self-archiving are negligible or
> nonexistent, at what point, if ever, would one expect such cancellations
> to begin? Or are we to imagine that there will be no cancellations and
> that the widespread acceptance of "Romeo Green" standards will have no
> economic impact on publishers' revenues from libraries (and, thus, no
> impact on reducing libraries' expenditures)?

The purpose of OA provision by researchers is in order to maximize access
by -- and hence usage and impact from -- other researchers, for the sake
of research progress and productivity. The access/impact problem was first
brought to light by the affordability/problem, but they are *not the same
problem,* and the solution to the one is not the solution to the other,
and vice versa.

At this point in the evolution of OA it would be far better if these two
problems were disentangled from one another. Libraries should of course
continue doing whatever they can to minimize journal prices and maximize
journal affordability. But they should not treat OA as one of the means to
this end, as that would only work to the disadvantage of OA.

Moreover, OA provision through self-archiving grows anarchically, article
by article, rather than journal by journal, mooting questions of
cancellation at this early point, where institutional OA provision
policies are what is urgently needed, not institutional green-journal
cancellation policies!

    "The Green Road to Open Access: A Leveraged Transition" (Harnad 2004)

If you want to cancel, cancel the gray journals, not the green ones!


> 3.  Assuming that cancellations or their threat do occur, how are
> publishers likely to respond?  Will they watch their businesses whither
> away?  Will they step back from "Romeo Green"?  Or will they migrate the
> value away from the articles themselves (which presumably are free to one
> and all through a well-tuned Google search) to other facets of their
> subscription services? This is the point that I am personally most
> interested in.

What would be most helpful at this point is not continuing passive
speculation about hypothetical future contingencies, should OA ever
prevail, but immediate action on implementing policies and practises to
ensure that OA does prevail.


Stevan Harnad